“IPL’s Cricketainment is a marketing and branding case study” MTI MTI’s Delhi based Shanker Bhattacharyya shares MTI’s strategic thoughts, analysis and learnings from the IPL Q: Is IPL a brand success, a media success or both? How do you describe IPL? Convergence of Cricket, and entertainment, one can describe this as cricket tournament, an entertainment event or a media spectacle! “Cricketainment” perhaps? The lines get blurred at times. If we are to go back few years, the idea was mooted for the first time in 2002. It was none other than Mr. Lalit Modi, scion of the KK BIRLA business family and empire who had a fixation and an inspiration of holding a cricket tournament in India. Inspiration came from the NBA league in US and also to some extent the club football leagues in the European continent. Here both the tournaments and the clubs are also a brand “property”, complete with media rights, merchandizing rights, sponsors, advertisers and a die-hard fan base worldwide. Until now, this has existed in the developed markets or countries (first world countries if you please). IPL is the first such an attempt to build a sports brand franchisee /property in South East Asia, based on one of the most popular sports in the region. To me, this creation is what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “tipping point” in the annals of cricket history worldwide. The effect of this will be felt throughout the cricketing world. It will inspire and create spin offs of similar products/brands, attract sponsors and advertisers, and on the whole it will change the economic contours of cricket and hopefully other sports as well. Is IPL a brand success? Or should we be more specific and determine whether this episode of the IPL is a success? Let’s examine this a little more closely. Any brand, by definition, should have an uncluttered, unique and relevant value proposition to its customers. In addition, it should be attuned to the culture in which it exists and a strong emotional connection with its customers. Does IPL have all this? I think it does. Here is why. The content is cricket, or rather quality of cricket provided by the best players in business. Showcasing their skills in typical “football” like atmosphere for 3 hours - long enough to keep them engaged and short enough not to be boring - you can compare it
with other entertainment avenues viz. a football match of two hours or a movie of three hours. It is like a good thriller with a tight script. It grips the audience. That is the heart of the value proposition; it is unique in its value proposition and perfectly relevant for the Indian audience. The cricket, as expected, has a very strong emotional connection. Without doubt IPL has all the essential characteristics of a brand in the Indian cultural context. The other very important aspect of this content is the eight teams based on city loyalties and rivalries. This artificially created rivalry was an important part of this brand. Without this artificially created loyalty (similar to a Man U vs. Liverpool contest with the competition and accompanying drama) the content would fall flat. Without competition no sport is worth watching, whether live or on television. Now to gauge the success. But how would one judge the success of this brand? We know that the value proposition of this brand has the uniqueness, appeal and relevance to the Indian audience. Unlike a product or a service where a certain level of awareness and trial would be a top line indication of customer acceptance of the brand, a sports brand property would not have the same measure of success. At the heart of any sports brand property would be a valuation of its ability to attract a captive audience. It is as much a live event as it is a media event. The biggest share of revenue comes from selling television rights. The majority of the value is based on the estimated number of viewers this brand /event is able to deliver. This is a judgment call made by a television company....
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